Off The Road

a bush path in rainy season

a bush path in rainy season

Millennials love to travel. We dream of climbing mountains in Tibet, surfing in Fiji, and tasting wine in Italy. As the world has become flatter, we board airplanes, jump on trains, and hop into cars to see what it has to offer.

Our bookshelves are filled with books like ‘Wild’ and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ that describe finding one’s self while travelling. The bodies of our generation are tattooed with images of compasses, maps, and anything having to do with “wanderlust.”

Traveling is supposed to be the solution. To learn about yourself, you must travel. To help other people, you must travel. To understand the world, you must travel. To be a better person, you must travel.

This is the message we hear over and over again. You will not be complete until you’ve seen the world.

From the time I studied abroad in Bulgaria in 2011, I’ve had an itch to travel more. Since then, I’ve lived in Yellowstone National Park, taken several road trips across the United States, and joined Peace Corps. Personally, I love to travel.

But travelling doesn’t make me whole.

Although I do want to learn more about myself, help other people, understand the world, and become a better person, travelling will not achieve that for me.

Travelling is not the solution to life, it is simply one of many means of reaching the end.


Throughout my life, I’ve had many friends who don’t like to travel. For so long it baffled me. How can you be happy living and working in the same small town in which you were born? How can you be content without leaving your own backyard? How can you find joy without experiencing the world?

I didn’t know that everything you could want to obtain in life can be realized without running off to far corners of the globe.

Instead of turning their backs on their family and friends, many people decide to live beside them. Surrounded by those who love you, these people find happiness. Life is short, why not spend time with those you love?

Many times, I’ve travelled in hopes of finding myself. Usually, I’ve become more lost. Moments when I learn the most about myself are when I return home from a trip.

When I’m at home is when I’m the most helpful to people around me. Instead of needing to manage language and cultural barriers, I’m free to simply help those around me.

The world is best understood from the ground, but you don’t need to dash off to the far reaches of the globe to grasp the workings of our earth. The world is happening all around you. Your neighbors, coworkers, and running partners are just as much a part of this planet as a farmer in Senegal, a businessman Saudi Arabia, or teacher in South Korea.

If travelling is the only way to become a better person, why is the world filled with terrorists, rapists, and corrupt politicians? Now, more than ever, people are travelling both for business as well as pleasure. Maybe if these people just stayed in their own backyards, they’d be less of a problem for society.

As a millennial who loves to travel, I’m not condoning travelling. Seeing the world is a lot of fun and I probably won’t stop anytime soon. But it’s not the answer to all of life’s challenges.

You can learn about yourself, help others, understand the world, and become a better person without leaving your backyard.

Sometimes the best journeys happen off the road.


Sink or Swim

spending the day at a beach in Mbour

spending the day at a beach in Mbour

When we were thrown into Community Based Training (CBT) two weeks ago, we had two options: to sink or swim. After going to classes for a week at the Thies Training Center, we were assigned a local language, given a crash course in basic greetings, and sent to live with host families. Using a handful of words and phrases, we were told to integrate into our communities.

In the mornings, we meet in small groups with a trainer to learn the language. The afternoons and evenings are spent with our families practicing our language and cultural skills. After only a few days at CBT, I can greet anyone in the local language and carry on a simple conversation.

Although my language skills are very basic, my family and community have welcomed me. From the first day, I’ve been treated with traditional Senegalese hospitality. My family understands that I can barely take care of my basic needs, but they take my hand and teach me how to cook and do laundry, take a bucket bath, and go to the market.

At the end of every day, I’m mentally and physically exhausted. Even with an afternoon nap, I need nine hours of sleep every night. Every day, I fight to keep my head above water. Sometimes the current pulls me under, but I always reemerge.

Swimming uses every ounce of strength I have, but the longer I thrash in the water the stronger I will become.

First Days in Senegal

a woman washes laundry at the Thies Training Center

a woman washes laundry at the Thies Training Center

There are times in our lives when, no matter what, we can’t slow down time. There are other times when, try as we might, we can’t speed it up. There are still other times when time seems to fly by in slow motion. The past few days can only be described this way.

Since meeting the other 60 Peace Corps Trainees (PCT) in Philadelphia for two days of icebreakers and last-minute details, we have arrived in Thiès, Senegal for nine weeks of training. Thus far, training has included classes from 8:00 to 16:00 with other activities in the evenings. Beginning this week, we will be assigned to a local language and leave for Community Based Training (CBT) to live with host families.

Several of the trainers are nearing the end of their 27 months of service as we begin our service. As we ask them questions and learn from their experiences, everyone says the same thing: your time in Senegal will be over in the blink of an eye. Although there will be difficult days, weeks, and months, the hard times will pass as quickly as the good times.

Daunting though it seems to integrate into a new culture, I can help but anticipate the success that comes from the failures and mistakes I am sure to make as I learn a new language, start a new job, and become a member of Senegalese society. Though the hard times will come, the good times will be well worth the trials I overcome.

Training Grounds

SenegalSince receiving my invitation to serve with the Peace Corps in Senegal, it seems as if my life as becoming training grounds for the 27 months I’ll spend in Africa. Starting a new job, moving to a new city, staying with a host family, making new friends, living in a foreign country, and learning a new language are among the lessons I’ve learned so far. As with many lessons, these weren’t always easy to learn, and some were downright difficult. But, in the end, they all lead to good things and strengthened the skills I hope to use as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV).

Months turn to weeks and weeks turn to days as the countdown to March 3 winds down. As I anticipate arriving in Thiès, Senegal for Pre-Service Training (PST), the anxiousness I felt in my stomach is being replaced by pure excitement. Not that I’m not scared, but the strength that is only present in the face of fear is empowering me.

Empowering me to touch up on my French skills. Empowering me to say goodbye to friends and family. And empowering me to invest in the lives of those around me, even if only for a short period of time. Because, although my remaining time in America may be short, the two years I spend in Africa will seem even shorter.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last year is to learn from the people around you. Though someone may only appear in your life for a summer, a month, or even just a moment, each human has a life lesson to share.

To listen, to love, to hope, to dream. A few of these have been shared with me.

When I look back on my African experience in two years, I hope I remember the lessons I learned from the people around me. Maybe I’ll change Africa for the better, but I know that Africa will change me for the best. The men and women I live, work, and travel with will share with me just as much as I share with them.

And, I have no doubt, Africa will be training grounds for something even greater. Because life has a way of always preparing us for the challenges we will face, of using our fears to make us stronger.

So, enjoy today for today, but always look forward to something far greater. Although you may not think you have what it takes, take what you have and face your fears. Share what you learn, because, after all, we’re all training.

At a Crossroads

Peace Corps

Inevitably, as you go through life, you come upon a crossroads. Sometimes, that crossroads seems to coincide with major life events and sometimes a crossroads is a major life event in and of itself. Maybe crossroads allows us to choose the path that will continue to define us, or maybe the path chooses us because it will lead to the person we are meant to be. Whatever the cause and wherever the choice will take us, crossroads will always continue to break the mundane routine of the comfortable person.

With graduation just around the corner, I have been contemplating the various options available to me. Volunteering. Internships. Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Korea. Full-time jobs. Travel. As a soon-to-be college graduate, the possibilities seem endless.

But something was pulling me toward the unconventional…

On a whim, back in April, I applied to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Just wanting to keep my options open, I never really gave the application a second thought.

Until a Peace Corps Recruiter called me in May, interviewed me, and, at the end of the interview, nominated me to a business program in Western Africa scheduled to leave in early 2014. I would have no further details until an formal invitation was extended to me.

Suddenly, the ball was rolling.

Throughout the summer months, I continued to contemplate the Peace Corps as well as a few other options. Knowing that I was quickly approaching a crossroads, I didn’t want to take the decision lightly.

Then, on Tuesday, September 3, I opened my email to find an invitation from the Peace Corps to serve as a Community Economic Development Agent in Senegal. I had seven days to accept or decline.

This was the crux of the matter.

Not wanting to make a poor decision, I used the full week to contemplate the invitation and seek advice. In my heart, I knew my decision. But my mind was a little slower.

Finally, on Tuesday, I accepted the invitation to become a PCV.

The Senegal program will depart in March. For 27 months, I will serve as a business adviser for small businesses and a mentor for youth and women in the areas of business and information technology. Throughout the three months of training and then my community placement, I will develop language skills in French and possibly another local language while immersing myself in another culture.

These 27 months will be biggest challenge I have ever encountered. But also the most rewarding. Excitement, nervousness, and anticipating course through my veins.

Here at this crossroads, I can’t wait to meet the person at the end of this journey.